ACCESSIBILITY AT UNOG A A A A The United Nations in the Heart of Europe


22 May 2018

The Committee on Enforced Disappearances this morning opened its fourteenth session at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, during which it will examine the initial reports of Honduras, Austria and Albania on their implementation of the provisions of the International Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

The Committee listened to an address by Adam Abdelmoula, Director of the Human Rights Council and Treaty Mechanisms Division, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, observed a minute of silence in remembrance of victims of enforced disappearances, and adopted its agenda and programme of work for the session.

In his opening statement, Mr. Abdelmoula said this year the world commemorated the seventieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.  He expressed his dismay and condemnation that gross and systematic violations and situations that constituted serious obstacles to the full enjoyment of all human rights, including enforced disappearances, continued to occur in different parts of the world and called upon States to take effective measures to prevent, terminate and punish these acts.  Consistent with these objectives of prevention, the Organization Management Plan for 2018-2021 of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had included accountability and human rights in peace and security among the six pillars of its strategic interventions.

Turning to the status of ratifications of the Convention, he informed that the United Nations General Assembly had called upon States to consider signing, ratifying, or acceding to the Convention as a matter of priority.  Since the previous session, Benin had ratified the Convention, bringing the total number of States parties to the Convention to 58. 

On 19 December 2017, the General Assembly had adopted resolution 72/183 on the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, and had expressed its deep concern at the increase of this scourge in various regions of the world.  The General Assembly had also welcomed the work done by the Committee, including the cooperation established with the Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearances.

Mr. Abdelmoula also informed the Committee on the topics covered in the Annual Report of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights submitted to the Human Rights Council in its March 2018 session.  These included the Office’s activities in facilitating dialogue on transitional justice issues, including through a first public regional debate in South America, as well the establishment of transitional justice mechanisms at the national level in Bolivia, supporting the rights of victims in Colombia, supporting a bill for the establishment of a truth and reconciliation commission in the Gambia, and working with the International Committee of the Red Cross  and authorities in Pristina and Belgrade to clarify the fate of the 1,658 missing persons from the 1998-2000 conflict. 

During its thirty-seventh session in March 2018, the Human Rights Council had adopted a resolution on the integrity of the judicial system.  Likewise, the Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence and the Special Adviser of the Secretary General on the Prevention of Genocide had submitted to the Human Rights Council a joint study on the prevention of gross violations and abuses of human rights and serious violations of international humanitarian law.  The study acknowledged that failure to prevent or halt systematic human rights violations increased the risk of violence, conflict and atrocity crimes.

With regard to the activities of the Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearances, Mr. Abdelmoula noted that during its April 2018 session, it had examined more than 1,000 cases from 40 countries, of which more than 40 recent reported cases had been reviewed under its urgent procedure.  The Working Group’s next thematic report would provide States with concrete tools for the implementation of the obligation to investigate disappearances effectively, exhaustively and impartially.

Finally, Mr. Abdelmoula briefed the Committee on developments at the regional and national contexts, namely an International Seminar on Enforced in the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, in February 2018; the adoption of a landmark resolution by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in March 2018 on the follow-up of its judgement on the Case Massacre of Rio Negro v. Guatemala against indigenous communities; and an endorsement by Colombia during the May 2018 Universal Periodic Review, of a recommendation by Norway for the implementation of a Transitional Justice System, the Commission for the Clarification of Truth, Coexistence and Non-Repetition and the Unit for the Search for persons declared as disappeared in the Peace Agreement.

In conclusion, Mr. Abdelmoula informed the Committee of the General Assembly decisions at its seventy-second session held in December 2017, which had serious negative implications for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the functioning of the treaty bodies.  These included a reduction of resources for travel of experts by 25 per cent; a reduction of resources for the travel of staff by 10 per cent; and the authorization of only 5 instead of 11 positions requested by the United Nations Secretary General.  The Office was currently looking into ways to adjust outputs and workload to ensure the necessary support for the treaty bodies’ activities, and would address this situation in the forthcoming second report that the Secretary-General would present to the General Assembly under 68/268.  Mr. Abdelmoula acknowledged the hard work of his colleagues and thanked them for their commitment and professionalism, stating that he knew the Committee valued the staff of the Office and that all worked in support of each other with dignity and respect.

The Committee will next meet in public at 3 p.m. this afternoon, to begin its consideration of the initial report Honduras (CED/C/HND/1).

For use of the information media; not an official record